The Therapeutic Triad

Recently, I have been pondering the role that the therapist plays in a music therapy session. I really like the idea of the therapeutic triad - don't know who came up with the concept, or even where I learned about it, so I'll make no attempt to cite it - sorry. I envision the therapy relationship as a flexible triangle with the client at the top of the triangle, the therapist at one end at the bottom and music at the other end. The triangle is flexible and pulls one way and the other as the members of the triad work together or apart from one another. Each element is essential for the others to participate in effective music therapy, but none is more important than the client. Without client involvement, there is no therapy.

So, I started to explain the concept of this triad to an intern at my facility. She is a very visual learner, so the picture of the triangle was the best first step for her. We discussed each of the elements of the relationship separately and then started talking about how we, as therapists, could either work with the music element to enhance the therapy or work against the music and not achieve our goals. We spoke about the times that the client and the therapist work together to produce the music element, the ways that the client and the music can change the therapist, and we talked about how music should be our greatest ally in the clinic and session. This brought about the talk about how music can do so much without a therapist, but coupled with a therapist who is able to select music for its elements and specific characteristics, the power of music is unlimited.

We were both able to put this into practice. I have had this concept for a long time and know how to choose music to support the goals of my clients, but it was interesting to explain it to someone else. I feel that we do not often talk to our novice therapists about the therapeutic influences of music on behavior in courses, so they do not have a concept of how to choose musical elements to support the objectives of the clients. Students often choose the song and play it the way they were taught to play, regardless of what the client is attempting to communicate about their needs and engagement. I enjoy the use of the 6-month internship as a time to discuss the concepts that may or may not have been covered in the massive amounts of education that students participated in. The internship offers those A-HA moments which are so important for learning and gives students a chance to assimilate and generalize information into reality.

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